How legal CPD courses and soft skills boost your value as an employee

Jodie Flowerday, a Policy Advisor working in the New Zealand tertiary sector, discusses the importance of Continuing Professional Development in the legal industry and how learning soft skills, also known as people skills, boost your value in the workplace. 

Jodie Flowerday

The New Zealand “LawTalk” magazine featured an article in November 2016 providing the results of a CPD survey the NZLS had carried out earlier in that year. After introducing CPD requirements for the legal profession in 2013, the survey showed that 3 years later there were still mixed attitudes toward compulsory CPD. This is particularly evident in the statistics on the question “The CPD initiative has been a positive step for the legal profession”. The article records that only 47.8% of the participants surveyed strongly agreed with this statement, followed very closely by almost 40% of those who “somewhat agreed”.

While CPD for most of us does mean more work, it also adds to a culture of continuous improvement. A profession has to adapt to changes in society and technology to ensure that it is meeting the needs of those who receive its services, therefore opportunities available post legal studies should be wide ranging. My view is that once we enter the legal profession we become part of the operation of law – this isn’t something that can be fully appreciated in theory and requires other skills in addition to those learnt at law school and in profs.

A compulsory requirement of CPD in my opinion, helps reduce complacency within a profession (the “we have done it this way for X amount of time, so why change” attitude), improves stakeholder confidence and creates motivation and a mandate for continuous improvement.

As lawyers, we have a relatively flexible CPD structure. My view is that it will always be worthwhile to include opportunities that are not law updates and industry developments. The value of soft skills like communicating effectively, working efficiently, handling conflict etc., became apparent to me when entering the professional workforce. These skills don’t necessarily come naturally, including to those in positions where it is desirable or necessary.

I attended a Legalwise Seminars in‐house counsel conference a few years ago and the sessions I got the most out of were not the updates on the law, but on how I can create value around my role and how to deal with conflict. For an example of creating value around my role, when talking with colleagues I try to get a sense of the issues they are coming up against. From there I can determine if there is anything the unit I work within can help with. This is direct implementation of one of the key learnings I took away from that Legalwise Seminars conference – talk to your colleagues and point out what you can do that can help. This raises your profile within your organisation and identifies the resources and skills you can provide.

Offering a range of skill-based development opportunities (both hard and soft) provides an opportunity to identify gaps holding back or stalling further success or innovation. As a profession, and as individuals, there are always things we do that can be improved. CPD opportunities can be maximised to create or enhance a culture of continuous improvement where skill gaps can be addressed, services improved and where innovation occurs.

So, if you are asked to provide feedback on CPD opportunities, I would encourage you to consider and suggest the soft skills you also want to develop. My experience in giving constructive feedback is that it is received positively and is used to develop future CPD opportunities.

Jodie Flowerday has been working in various roles since 2011. She currently works in the tertiary education sector in the role of Senior Policy Advisor for a tertiary education institution. Contact Jodie at or connect via LinkedIn